Lizz Winstead Recounts the History of "The Daily Show"

Question: What was the initial idea for "The Daily Show?"

Lizz Winstead: Well, I started out as a stand up who did political material and it had been...I'd done a couple of one-woman shows that had been based on sort of the evolution of 24-hour news and media and during the First Gulf War it occurred to me that CNN had been spending more and more money on graphics and less and less money on research and it was like, well, that's kind of a sounding alarm that I think through comedy I kind of want to do through my stand up to talk about that. And then it became...there was things like there was always children disappearing on the news and like we never got their big story and so I've been talking about these in my one-woman shows and my stand up and then Comedy Central knew my standup and I've done specials for them and stuff...and so then they said, "Would you like to come and create a show that responds to the world on a daily basis.? " And I said, "Yeah." But I said of my big sticking points is that it's not just the politicians and the news-makers, it's the media itself that's as big as pa player in the landscape. So, if you want to do it where we actually become a media outlet and become them and show how sort of remiss they are in reporting the facts and getting it wrong as well as taking on the powerful, I'm all for it. And they said, "That's a great idea." And so Madeleine Smithberg and I created this machine that is now "The Daily Show."

Question: What did Jon Stewart bring to the show?

Lizz Winstead: Well I think there was several different...As we were developing the show, there was also two different camps as we were on the air about people that wanted to focus on pop culture and people who wanted to focus on politics and what was going to be engaging and I was sort of fighting for politics, and the people who were fighting for pop culture so we had this meld of politics and pop culture and when John came onboard, John was really, "Let's take on the people that are the big giant offenders and hypocrites which are corporations and the media and politicians," so that when the show really started going for sort of a really healthy big targets of big bullies, that's really when it started to shine and John is somebody who really knows that game and through humor, you know, he always says the show is funny first and then, you know, the points come through second. And so, he really knows and understands that picking on the big targets and pointing out their hypocrisy is definitely the best way to go when it comes to political satire.

Recorded on: May 27, 2009


It was important to the comedienne that  mainstream media be critiqued, not just news-makers.

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